By Tulis McCall
Approximately 15 minutes into the first act of Ring Twice For Miranda, you realize that whatever it was you were waiting for – an event, a plot twist, or that moment when the play kicks off and says to you, “Follow me,” – THAT moment is nowhere in sight. It has not happened heretofore, and the sluggish pace of the play let’s you know that it ain’t gonna appear in the next two hours. The play is described as a “tragi-comedy set in difficult times.” Because I am living in what I consider to be difficult times I can say with some authority that this description lies beyond the play’s grasp.
The curtain comes up on Miranda (Katie Kleiger) and Elliot (George Merrick) in the servants’ quarters waiting to be summoned upstairs. They are dying for something to do in this very quiet household. Miranda is trying to build a house of cards and Elliott is busying himself dipping his fingers in a water bowl and making the crystal sing. And there you have it, pretty much.
The house in question is the manse of a certain “Sir” (Graeme Malcolm) who keeps his place safe and stocked with food – a crate of around six dozen peppers and assorted other fruits and vegetables sits prominently upstage. Outside the house there is “The South” to which no one wants to go and “The North” to which no one seems to have been. Hostility to the south and the unknow to the north. Not a pleasant choice. As well, because there are no gas stations or grocery stores or, well, people between here and there, the prospects are even gloomier.
Therefore, when Sir’s right hand man Gulliver (Daniel Pearce), who bears a striking resemblance to Sean Spicer, dismisses Elliott pretty much just because Gulliver CAN, it is a perilous turn of events. Or would be, if we cared, but we have already lost interest. Miranda pleads with Sir on Elliot’s behalf to no avail. When push comes to shove she opts to leave with Elliot (with some seriously light weight baggage, and oh by the way she is wearing high heeled boots…). Soon they encounter reality – or perhaps we should call it reality light. Just as this play is a sort of Brecht-Light montage. Two outlandish people appear who seem to be in another play entirely. British Chester (William Connell), and lady friend Anouk (Thalia Theisfield) are not only unbelievable as characters, their performance style is inexplicable. As if out of a hat, we also get Felix (Ian Lassiter), a supposed plumber who does not know one end of a wrench from the other and tosses pipes onto a beautiful table/desk as if they were made of rubber and will not scratch the wood. Cringe.
Soon the story has doubled back on itself with everyone returned to the manse. Here the play comes to a full stop just as Elliot and Miranda realize they are doomed if they stay and doomed it they go. We exit and life resumes – for us.
I can think of several reasons why Mr. Hruska would take a stab at this idea – the present political circumstances being one of them. What I do not understand is why or how this script was chosen for a full production. It lacks substance, and the story line has no pulse. In addition, what were the director Mr. Lombardo’s thoughts as he assembled the many pieces of this narrative. His direction – literally, as in what direction was he going – was never clarified. More’s the pity, because everyone involved in a production works hard. That is part of theatre’s magic and gift. While none of the acting was outstanding – these folks tried. But being caught between a more than inadequate script and direction that was wanting in the extreme, they didn’t have a chance. The entire thing was suitable for the counsel given my by John Randolph, the wonderful character actor of times past: “You must never blame the actors.” Indeed.
Ring Twice For Miranda – By Alan Hruska, Directed by Rick Lombardo
With: William Connell, Katie Kleiger, IanLassiter, Graeme Malcolm, George Merrick, and Talia Thiesfield.
set by Jason Sherwood, costumes by Ann Hould-Ward, lighting by Matthew Richards)
Produced by Red Horse Productions and RME Theatrical Group – through April 1 at New York City Center Stage II though April 1 (131 West 551h Street between 61h and 7 h Avenues) Tickets are $79 with premium reserved seating available. All tickets are subject to a $1 facility fee plus $6.50 handling charge if tickets are purchased online or by phone. Tickets are available online at NYCityCenter.org, by calling CityTix at (212) 581-1212, or in person at the New York City Center Box Office.